9 Industry Terms that will Help You Speak "Designer"

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Buenas y bienvenidos! Bonjour et bienvenue! Ciao e benvenuto! Hello and welcome.

With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to take a moment to share something a little personal about my family. Not many people know this about me, but I was actually born into a lively and loving Cuban-American household.

If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’re getting close to the real picture...

Loud? Check.

  My father, the heart of our family traditions and the man who inspired my love for interior design

My father, the heart of our family traditions and the man who inspired my love for interior design

A little crazy? Check, check.

But even though we were speaking Spanish, it was Cuban Spanish, not the Spanish nearly all of us took in high school.

So why am sharing this now?

Because even within the same language, there are differences from one culture to the next, and...

...it’s the exact same in the interior design world.

Yes, we’re still speaking English, but the words we use and how we use them are a bit different from your everyday jargon.


9 Industry Terms that will Help You Speak "Designer"

In the spirit of welcoming you to the fold (or our design family) this holiday season, I’m sharing some of my third language with you — designer!

Design Term: “Hard treatments”

Hard treatments are the materials that are physically connected to your home. For example, if you were to move, the countertops, hardwood floors, cabinets, farmhouse sink, to-die-for fireplace, etc. remain behind for the next owners. These are your hard treatments. The furniture and possessions you take with you are your “soft treatments.”

Used in Context: Hard treatments raise your home’s value more than soft treatments do!

  These built-in benches, hardwood floors, and staircase bannisters aren’t going anywhere!    From our Modern Glam Farmhouse project in Arlington, VA   .

These built-in benches, hardwood floors, and staircase bannisters aren’t going anywhere! From our Modern Glam Farmhouse project in Arlington, VA.

Design Term: “It has a nice hand”

A “nice hand” refers to how fabric feels when you touch it. For example, silk and velvet have an inherently nice hand, but inexpensive silk can feel thin and somewhat stiff. You have to touch it.

Used in context: These Italian silk drapes have a nice hand.


Design Term: “Install”

A dictionary will tell you that “install” is a verb, but in the design world, we’ve noun’ed it. (This grammar transgression would surely have had the nuns from my Catholic school days rapping knuckles!) Now, an install is the day when we take all of our purchased pieces and pull them together in your space.

Used in Context: The custom Roman shades arrived just in time for the install.

Design Term: “Lead time”

If you work with a designer, you’ll hear this term a LOT. “Lead time” is how long it will take to physically receive an item we’ve purchased for you, such as a couch, custom window treatment, or appliance. (More on lead times in #3 here.)

Used in Context: The lead time on this brushed brass chandelier is 4 weeks.


Design Term: “Matchy-matchy”

Ever walked into a room where one color smacked you in the face? That’s an example of design being too “matchy-matchy.” A space needs contrast and variation. If everything in a room looks the same, it will feel obviously unbalanced and overwhelming to the eyes.

Used in Context: After trying to DIY design her living room, Fairfax Fran realized it was much too matchy-matchy and hired a professional.

  Several seating options in one space. They work together because they’re not too matchy-matchy!    From our South Riding, VA project   .

Several seating options in one space. They work together because they’re not too matchy-matchy! From our South Riding, VA project.

Design Term: “Kiln-dried”

If you hear the term “kiln-dried,” we’re probably talking about furniture frames (not pottery!). Kiln-drying the wooden frame removes almost all of the natural water within the wood. This boosts it durability and longevity.

Used in Context: When given the choice, we always opt for kiln-dried.


Design Term: “8-way hand-tied”

“8-way hand-tied” refers to the spring system within upholstered furniture. This method takes skill and additional labor, but the result is furniture that is more comfortable and longer-lasting than other spring-tying methods.

Used in Context: We opted for 8-way hand-tied chairs in our living room and guests loved them.

Design Term: “Hand-knotted”

When we talk “hand-knotted,” we’re talking rugs — and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. These master craftsmen create beautiful rug patterns by tying each knot individually. The result is “knot” only a one-of-a-kind piece, but an investment that will carry you decades into the future.

Used in Context: Our newest client received a hand-knotted rug that had been passed down through her family.

Design Term: “Tszuj”

“Tszuj” is a term made popular by Carson Kressley in the original Queer Eye series (though he claims it came from Ralph Lauren). It means to adjust something, like a sleeve, but without being very precise about it.

Pronunciation Guide: French “j”s (like soup du jour) and a “u” sound like the “oo” in “cook.”

Used in Context: Tszuj those pillows so they don’t look staged.

  This glam home office    we designed in Loudoun County, VA    looks A.B.S… Anything But Staged!

This glam home office we designed in Loudoun County, VA looks A.B.S… Anything But Staged!

That’s 9! Feeling a little more confident to speak designer now? Then you’re ready to check out our complementary guide to the Top 4 Most Common Interior Design Mistakes, found on our homepage.

Hasta la proxima. À la prochaine. Alla prossima. See you next time. :)